Transfer differences and a divided dressing room: How Lampard’s Chelsea reign fell apart
The iconic midfielder was sacked by the Blues on Monday after an 18-month tenure that quickly began to spiral downwards in recent weeks
He may be a Chelsea legend, but even Frank Lampard could not escape Roman Abramovich’s managerial axe at Stamford Bridge.
A run of five defeats in eight Premier League games has brought Lampard’s reign in the Stamford Bridge dugout to an end after just 18 months in charge of the club where he remains the record goalscorer.
Though the news broke on Monday morning, it is a decision that has been in the pipeline for a number of days.
The Blues had already reached out to Lampard’s replacement in-waiting, Thomas Tuchel, ahead of Sunday’s FA Cup win over Luton Town, with last week’s 2-0 loss at Leicester City the final straw for Abramovich.
“Performances have not met the club’s expectations, leaving the club mid-table without any clear path to sustained improvement,” read Chelsea’s official statement following the decision from the Blues’ Russian owner, director Marina Granovskaia and technical and performance director Petr Cech to sever ties with Lampard.
They did not buy the ex-England midfielder’s argument that he needed time to blend his inexperienced squad together with the club’s expensive summer signings, with Lampard having recorded the lowest points-per-game total (1.67) of any Chelsea boss in the Abramovich era.
It is the failure to get the best out of those new arrivals that Lampard’s tenure will likely be remembered for, with Germany duo Timo Werner and Kai Havertz having particularly struggled since arriving in west London.
The pair were brought in as part of a £220 million ($275m) summer splurge as Chelsea spent more than any other club during pre-season, but neither has been able to replicate their form from the Bundesliga as Lampard battled to find the roles best suited to them in his preferred 4-3-3 formation.
Both players were signed off on by Lampard when new arrivals were being discussed, yet were the 42-year-old to start over he may have wanted to push more for the targets he brought to the table.
Lampard was keen to maintain the English core to his team that had brought him success during his first season in charge, but only Ben Chilwell arrived of the homegrown players he suggested be signed.
West Ham midfielder Declan Rice, Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho and Brighton defender Ben White were all deemed too expensive by the club’s decision-makers, with the club instead keen to take advantage of the release clauses in Werner and Hakim Ziyech’s contracts to bring them in from RB Leipzig and Ajax, respectively,
Havertz, meanwhile, was regarded as a generational talent who had outgrown Bayer Leverkusen by the club’s European scouts, while the decision to sign Thiago Silva on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain was a last-minute call as the Blues took advantage of their continental contacts.
Despite the new players not being on Lampard’s original wishlist, there is no doubt that he still had one of the more talented groups of players in Europe and he certainly bought into integrating them into his team.
However, he was eventually undermined by a divided dressing room made up of a bloated squad.
Some individuals felt Lampard would unfairly blame his players for defeats while others were not afraid to voice their concern at a lack of game time.
Marcos Alonso’s dressing-room row with Lampard following October’s 3-3 draw with West Brom caused some friction while the likes of Emerson Palmieri, Antonio Rudiger and Fikayo Tomori found themselves on the fringes after seeing transfers collapse late in the summer window.
That left Lampard with a squad which contained three left-backs, five centre-backs and the world’s most expensive goalkeeper as its back-up, and as such keeping everyone happy was almost impossible.
In the final weeks of his tenure some of the club’s star men were beginning to blame Lampard for their own poor form, with one source telling Goal of the “strange atmosphere” inside the club’s dressing room.
It is that atmosphere that Tuchel will walk into once he is confirmed in the role over the next 24 hours as he aims to lift Chelsea from their current position of ninth in the Premier League table.
He will be tasked with bringing together a squad that includes players he has worked with before in Thiago Silva and Christian Pulisic, out-of-form compatriots Werner and Havertz as well as a group of players who are loyal to Lampard.
The ex-Paris Saint-Germain boss will not only have to deal with convincing those players of his merits but also a fanbase who have just seen one of their idols removed from his post.
In recent weeks Chelsea’s biggest independent fanzine, CFC UK, had issued a statement calling on the club to give Lampard more time while the ‘We Are The Shed’ supporters’ group paid for a banner to be displayed inside Stamford Bridge that read ‘In Lampard We Trust’.
Perhaps in a bid to get ahead of any fan backlash, Abramovich took the unprecedented step of issuing his own statement upon the sacking of Lampard as he looked to reiterate the club’s understanding of his legendary status.
“On behalf of everyone at the club, the board and personally, I would like to thank Frank for his work as head coach and wish him every success in the future,” Abramovich said.
“He is an important icon of this great club and his status here remains undiminished. He will always be warmly welcomed back at Stamford Bridge.”
With no fans in the stadiums it is hard to know what reaction the sacking of Lampard will truly get, but there is no doubt that his departure will leave a bitter taste in the mouth of many supporters, regardless of Abramovich’s intervention.
Tuchel might be able to help them move on, but only if he can do what Lampard seemingly could not and get the club moving in the right direction on the pitch.
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